SPAIN has hit back at the UK’s new quarantine rules, insisting it is “safe for tourists”.
Britain took Spain off its ‘air bridge’ list at midnight after the country saw a dramatic rise in coronavirus cases recently.
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Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said “Spain is a safe country for tourists and for Spaniards” as she tried to save the country’s tourist industry from collapse during the coronavirus pandemic.
Tourism is Spain’s third largest industry accounting for around 11.7 per cent of the country’s GDP, according to the country’s Institute for National Statistics.
While Ms Gonzalez Laya admitted the country was seeing a new outbreak of the virus she said “huge efforts” were being made to test for Covid-19.
She said: “Once they are identified they are subject to very strict social distancing measures.
“So Spain is safe. Safe for Spaniards, it’s safe for tourists.”
Ms Gonzalez Laya also said she hoped a safe travel corridor could be opened up to the Spanish Canary and Balearic Islands, which are a tourist hotspot for Brits.
She said: “Our dialogue at the moment is around the Canary and Balearic islands for two reasons. One, they are islands and very safe; number two their data is extremely positive, well below the data of the UK.
“We hope the dialogue we have started with the UK will be approved shortly.”
She added: “This is not a diplomatic exercise. This is not a tit-for-tat exercise.
“We will take decisions based on the data. This is an exercise in health and safety of our citizens, Spaniards as well as tourists who love coming to Spain and we hope will continue coming to Spain because Spain is a safe country.”
The move by the UK came just 16 days after a ‘safe corridor’ was opened between the countries allowing non-quarantine travel.
After a spike in coronavirus cases in Spain, holidaymakers in the country – including island hotspots like Majorca and Ibiza – will now be forced to quarantine for two weeks upon returning home to the UK.
The Foreign Office has also warned against “all but essential travel” to mainland Spain – though this advice does not cover the Canary Islands or Balearic Islands.
Outbreaks of the virus have now been detected in 10 Spanish regions with more than 1,000 new cases a day.
Aragón, Navarre, Catalonia, Basque Country, Extremadura and La Rioja have been particularly affected by a second wave of Covid-19.
There are now fears Spain could impose similar quarantine restrictions in retaliation.
Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya previously said in a BBC interview that restrictions could be imposed just for Brits.
Britain relaxed its original quarantine restrictions on a number of countries, including Spain, on July 10.
Ms Gonzalez Laya said on June 16: “We will be checking what the UK will be doing and we will be in a dialogue with the UK to see whether or not we should be introducing reciprocity as they have different measures than the rest of the European Union.”
“Properly engage in a dialogue with the UK authorities to make sure that we both take the message that best corresponds to the health situation, which today is a little bit better in Spain than it is in the UK”.
She added: “Hopefully by the time we open our borders, the UK would have moved forward also.”
According to the Carlos III Health Institute, the R reproduction number in Spain – which measures how quickly a virus can spread – is now around 1.3, meaning that one infected person will pass the coronavirus on to an average of 1.3 people.
It has been above the critical level of one for two weeks.
The number of hospital admissions is now between 30-40 people a day, casualties that were not seen in the country since May.
Barcelona and Lleida have been placed under new restrictions.
A UK government spokesman said: “The Joint Biosecurity Centre together with Public Health England have updated their coronavirus assessments of Spain based on the latest data.”
“As a result, Spain has been removed from the lists of countries from which passengers arriving in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are exempted from the need to self-isolate.
“Both our list of quarantine exemptions and the FCO travel advice are being updated to reflect these latest risk assessments.”